Home Canadian News With spring wild horse foal season here, caution and awareness urged

With spring wild horse foal season here, caution and awareness urged

With spring wild horse foal season here, caution and awareness urged

The Alberta Helps Wildies Society usually gets one to three calls every spring regarding foals that need help.

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A wild horse advocacy group in Olds is asking people to be vigilant in the next few months, as spring is prime foal time.

“What happens a lot of times is people that are out on quads, motorbikes, and stuff like that — roaring up and down trails, having fun, which is what everybody does — and unfortunately, sometimes it will spook a band of horses,” said Darrell Glover, president and co-founder of Help Alberta Wildies Society.

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Those horses may, in fact, have a foal or two laying down in the bushes or down on the grass, Glover said. “And if the horses get run off or separated, quite often it leads to an abandoned foal.”

Anytime between now and mid-July, HAWS runs into situations where people call to say they’ve found a foal all by itself. Glover and his team do whatever they can to rescue the abandoned foals, but once they are taken out of the wild, they stay out of the wild.

“Two years ago, we had two on the very same day — one was over near Ram Falls, and the other one was west of Sundre — they were 40 miles (64 kilometres) apart.”

Wild horses
A young wild horse nurses while momma stands west of Sundre, Alberta, on Tuesday, July 26, 2022. Mike Drew/Postmedia file

Glover said that in one of the two cases, a young girl was out with her dad and friends on quads when they discovered a little foal lying abandoned in the grass. It took the group 2½ hours to walk the foal down the mountain.

HAWS rescued the foal, bringing it back to their ranch and raising it to a yearling, alongside the other foal that was rescued; both eventually got adopted out as yearlings.

“Typically, with a wild horse, it seems a bit unreasonable, but after a 15-minute separation, the wild horses pretty much consider life normal again, and they don’t go back,” Glover said.

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He explained that foals — like other young animals — are still nursing at that early age and haven’t learned how to survive by grazing. “In fact, they don’t even have teeth.”

“So when we pick them up in a situation like that, we bring them home and bottle-feed them. We actually sleep in the barn with them until we find a nurse mare,” he said.

When HAWS brings an abandoned foal back to the ranch, the first thing the organization does is put a callout on social media to look for a nurse mare. “And it’s always been successful that we find one; we ship that foal off to wherever that mare is and leave it for another five months.”

Sadly, not all abandoned foals are found, Glover said, and if they’re separated from their mom, they’re bound to die within a day or two.

Abandoned wild horse foal
A wild horse foal, which was eventually given the name Dusk, was kicked vigorously as he was trying to nurse. He was also rejected by his mom, so he tried to nurse from the other mares. He was adopted early on by a woman who found him, says the Help Alberta Wildies Society. Supplied/Help Alberta Wildies Society

The organization usually gets anywhere from one to three calls every spring regarding foals that need help — sometimes it is unrelated to them being left behind by their mother and natal band.

“Last spring, we got called out to where a stallion was actually going to kill the foal; we rescued him in time. If a stallion has a mare that gives birth to a foal that is not his, unfortunately, quite often they will kill it.”

Glover said spring is overall a hard time of year for foals — with such predators as bears emerging, they are extremely susceptible. “They’ve got the human recreation factor; they’ve got all kinds of different things that make it tough on the new foals.”

“We estimate only 10% of the foals born annually survive, so it’s critical that as many foals as possible make it to adulthood.”

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